We were treated to an advanced screening of the live action Beauty And The Beast movie! We have an exclusive interview from Director Bill Condon and Alan Menken (Music By). Post sponsored by Disney. All opinions are my own.
All Photos Credited to Coralie Hughes Seright/LovebugsAndPostcards.com
Our exclusive interview with Director Bill Condon and Alan Menken (Music By) was so much fun! To be in the same room with such legends was an honor. The way they talked about collaboration with anyone and everyone they could was inspiring. I am more open to collaboration on my own blog. When people bring their talent to one project, it allows everyone to learn and create something even better!
Have you tried collaborating with others in your field? When I think back to high school, I remember our teachers would encourage us to work in groups on a major project! Collaboration is the same idea!
Question: What drew you to this story?
Alan Menken: I was drawn to the story by Disney. I mean it was basically Howard Ashman and I were working Little Mermaid, it hadn’t been released yet but people were very happy with it and they said how about Beauty and the Beast. We’re interested in doing that next. I have to say Howard and I actually, we had Aladdin but Aladdin had to go back to development because we were a bit too edgy. There was more development work to do on that so Beauty and the Beast then came in and became the next thing we worked on together.
And, you know, as far as what drew me to it beyond that I mean I gotta go back and credit Howard. When you look at the initial story and how you’re gonna turn it into an animated musical then it was a matter of inventing the enchanted objects and inventing a huge ego for Gaston and his posse of nitwits who praise him. So simply because for the structure we needed to put in production numbers and comedy numbers and so it was all those brilliant ideas and I gotta say Howard was so instrumental in that.
Bill Condon: I have to say it was, so I come in. There’s this movie, this classic, perfect movie that already exists and for me more than anything it was the score, the chance to really roll around in that music and to restage it. To do a new version of it in a live action format especially those songs. It just felt to me like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Alan Menken: When I heard that Bill was directing it I didn’t know you. I knew the work you had done but Richard said Bill is a major fan of musical theater. He loves it so this was oh, he knows the craft. He knows musicals and so that was huge.
Question: Are the new songs brand new?
Alan Menken: They’re brand new. No, Days in the Sun, before Bill was on as a director, this goes back to about 2008. There was discussions about a movie version of Beauty and actually went as far as early script and when I was in London working on Sister Act. Tim was there and I said let’s try, you know, working on a couple of songs. The Days in the Sun, the genesis of that actually began back there as sort of a lullaby moment but once Bill came aboard then that really got reworked, to be a vehicle of so much back story and we’re threading a lot of story to it.
And the other songs I would say they were the songs we decide at the beginning. Some moments we followed through on. The actual conception of the songs was yes, here they are. The actual execution was two years of here are these songs, black and blue and we’re gonna reprise it here and we’re gonna put it, so a little bit of How Does a Moment Last Forever into the middle of Days in the Sun. We’re gonna take Days in the Sun theme and we’re gonna put it at the top as the Aria and you have these threads and you begin to weave with them. I never, by the way, I never pull from a trunk, ever.
Question: How do you work together throughout the process?
Bill Condon: Well for me I was intimidated at our first meeting because here I am and I’m sort of talking about the first possible new song and this is a legendary composer but also it’s a property that as we keep saying is perfect on its own, but Alan is a direct opposite of that. I think Alan as a man of the theatre, is somebody who craves the dialogue and the collaboration. I think that’s what it’s about and that became clear very, very soon, you know. We just started a conversation, you know, it went on for a couple of years, right?
Alan Menken: Also, we’re both professionals. We both have done a lot of work. We know what’s necessary in order to collaborate and there are people who are new to musicals and will try to reinvent the wheel in one direction or another but we both have been through so much and when you’re a pro you basically arrived at the same place kind of because you know what’s important and you know what needs to get done and you know the necessity of process and I know that for me to go back to Beauty and the Beast on my own, no way I could do it.
I had done it. It’s all about other people coming in and collaborating and for me the director is the boss and so it takes such a burden off of me. Now I’m able to be a catalyst which is what I wanna be more than somebody driving the ship. Bill had the burden of actually driving the ship so I don’t know.
Question: Talk about the challenges of preserving the timeless classic with integrating new things?
Bill Condon: I think again it was always about revealing more. It wasn’t about reinventing. So, you bring it into the real world and you start to ask questions that didn’t matter in the animated film. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village? What happened to her mother? How did the Prince become such a dissolute figure that he was worthy of being cursed? It’s interesting you start asking those questions and you start to bat around what the possible answers are. Then, you’re making something different but I think for me I could ever really rely on my own kind of reverence for the original film in knowing when you’re changing something or going too far. You know, I hope never to cross that line.
Question: You’ve been in this career for so long. What would you tell your old self, knowing what you know now?
Alan Menken: What would I tell? Well, it’s just stuff I’ve learned. I mean one of the most important things I learned in my career was it’s not about me. It’s about the characters and the story and don’t ever fall in love with your own material. Let other people fall in love with it if they want and if you have a note, the best way to address a note is to go okay, and just do it because you’re part of a thing that’s larger than you and the more, that’s what’s great about musical theater also.
The more that you’re recognizing that your part is bigger than you and you are a part of that and just stay in the process that you can survive. I mean the most tragic thing and you can see this too is people who go I wrote this wonderful music. I don’t know why it wasn’t a hit. I gotta try. I gotta keep working. I don’t understand why they didn’t like it. It’s just tragic. Don’t try it out. Push it aside and go on to something else. Write another musical and another and another. Just move on and don’t get stuck, you know, being the nurse mate to your own material.
Bill Condon: Very well put.
Beauty And The Beast is now playing in theaters everywhere!
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